Infringement of Copyright in the UAE

22 Mar 2022

The internet has posed a challenge to people in many ways. Copyright infringement is one of them. People can reach millions of websites with a single click, share something on social media networks by altering or modifying someone else’s initial work; a typical example of such modification is academic papers’ submission. Scholars often use different sources to produce their work. Copyright symbolizes the original author’s hard work in creating a book, song, novel, or program. With the rapid advancement of technology, it has become more difficult for authorities to adequately protect copyrighted work.

Law Related to Copyright Infringement

The UAE law on copyright and its related rights (Federal Law Number 7 of 2002) (hereinafter referred to as ‘The Law’) discovers the manners in which copyright infringement can occur, as well as the fines that can be levied. Infringers in the UAE face severe punishments, including deportation for ex-pats, as briefly mentioned above. In one case, the Dubai court sentenced a person for distributing and promoting unauthorized decoders that use internet protocol television (IPTV). The Dubai Court based its decision on Article 38 of the UAE Federal Law of Copyright, Law Number 7 of 2002, and its amendments. According to Article 38 of the Copyright Law, anyone who carries out any of the following activities without the creator’s prior permission will be punished by imprisonment for at least three months and a fine of at least AED 50,000 but not more than AED 500,000:

  1. Unlawfully manufacturing or importing any counterfeited work or copies thereof, as well as any equipment, materials, or devices especially designed or equipped for defrauding protection or technologies used by the author or holder of related rights for circulation, offering for circulation, regulating, or managing such rights, for sale, rental, or circulation;
  2. Disrupting or impairing any technical protection or electronic data intended to regulate and manage the rights provided by this Law.
  3. Downloading or storing any copy of a computer program, databases, or applications in a computer without first obtaining a license from the author, right holder, or successors.

In the event of a repeat offense, imprisonment is a minimum of nine months and a fine of at least AED 200,000. Whereas under Article 121 of Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 (Penal Code). Further, the author of the pre-existing work must always offer permission for a derivative work. Article 7 of the Law states that the author or the owner of the author’s right may permit the exploitation of the work in any way they see fit. If the author gives this right, it’s important to remember that he is not selling his copyright or encouraging plagiarism; he just allows others to create something different using his original work as a base. What happens if the author does not grant rights to his original work? Can you use the original work without permission? This is where the author needs help from a legal expert. This is a doctrine that defends the possibility of using an author’s original work without any permission in special cases. The Law provides this under Article 22 which goes on to explain that, without detriment to moral rights of the author under this very Law, the author may not prohibit third parties from performing any of the following acts after the publication of his work, the Law continues, listing circumstances that are not considered infringements of the copyright of the author. It is important to emphasize that small or minor changes made without the consent of the author would be regarded as plagiarism, even though the new work is derived from or based on existing work. It will be considered a copyright infringement if there is no authorization or license from the author.

Instances of Copyright Infringement

 P2P or torrent software is one of the most common ways of infringement these days. In this case, the violation is on a large scale, with the entire content open to the public domain. Owing to the presence of virtual proxy networks, it is also difficult to track. Therefore, any movie, music, or video game can be found for free on torrent. However, it is unlawful to upload copyrighted content to a torrent. Photocopying is another common way of infringement of copyright, often a book is photocopied and sold. You may find this in photocopying shops that photocopy educational textbooks on a large scale. As a result, students do not find the need to purchase textbooks. There is a limit to the purpose of educational use, copying half of a textbook explicitly constitutes copyright infringement. Replication of unauthorized graphic images publicly distributed is also a very common form of copyright infringement.

How to avoid copyright infringement?

As we already know what amounts to a copyright infringement, below are some helpful ways to steer clear of copyright infringement penalties:

  1. To obtain or grant a copyright license is no easy task, but an individual must acquire absolute permission to copy protected material. This will be beneficial for those who need to use copyright material on a daily basis. If an individual cannot obtain the license from the respective owner, he or she must write to the owner for clearance every time there is a need to copy a portion of the work and pay any fees required.
  2. Do not use the work of the author unless permission is obtained.
  3. For content that is available online, always check for the copyright icon.
  4. Generally, anything seen on the internet is usually copyrighted by default. If an individual makes copies, reproduces, displays, or holds out someone else’s work as their own, then, as a matter of fact, the copyright is infringed.